1951-1960

Ján Lacko – Skalni v ofsajde aka Soccer Fans (1960)

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Three soccer fans are determined to do literally anything to get to the soccer match between Czechoslovakia and the famous representation team of Brazil. Reaching their goal to see the dream match live cannot be precluded neither by a sudden work task nor family obligations. However, there is one more obstacle in their way: for some time, their enthusiastic behavior during soccer matches has been monitored by the police. This time, it will not be easy for them to get to the stadium. Read More »

Jacques Rozier – Blue jeans (1958)

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Great early short film by the underrated French filmmaker Jacques Rozier. The film follows two teenage boys trying to pick up girls in a resort town.
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Otto Preminger – Porgy and Bess (1959)

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A stellar line-up of African-American actors and musical stars helped to bring DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin’s classic operetta to this screen in this lavishly-produced adaptation. Porgy (Sidney Poitier) is a crippled man living in the shantytown of Catfish Row who has fallen in love with Bess (Dorothy Dandridge), a beautiful but troubled woman addicted to drugs. Bess is already being courted by several men, including Crown (Brock Peters), a muscular laborer, and Sportin’ Life (Sammy Davis, Jr.), a sharp-suited hipster who deals narcotics. Crown gets in a fist fight with Robbins (Joel Fluellen) and ends up killing him; Crown goes on the lam, and Bess, needing companionship, takes up with Porgy. However, Crown soon returns, and Porgy kills him in a subsequent altercation, forcing him to hide from the police. Meanwhile, the fickle Bess follows Sportin’ Life in search of the bright lights of New York City. Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll, Ivan Dixon, and Clarence Muse also highlight the cast; Robert McFerrin provided the singing voice of Porgy, and Adele Addison dubbed in Bess’ musical numbers. — Mark Deming Read More »

Jean Negulesco – Phone Call from a Stranger (1952)

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On a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles via Iowa, lawyer David Trask gets to know three of his fellow passengers as one technical issue after another leads to delays and unscheduled stops along the way. Those three are physician Dr. Robert Fortness, struggling actress with the stage name Binky Gay, and loud salesman Eddie Hoke, who is both quick with a joke and quick to show off a photograph of his beautiful wife, Marie Hoke. Below the surface, the three have deeper stories, which are bringing them back to Los Angeles and which Dr. Fortness and Binky divulge to David. Dr. Fortness, an alcoholic, is returning to own up to his drunken part in the death of a friend, and his wife Claire’s complicity in the matter. Binky, after being away in New York for a year, is returning to her husband, Mike Carr, hoping to take him away from his overbearing mother, former vaudeville star Sally Carr, who still basks in her former but no longer shining glory, and who is the cause of any marital problem she and Mike have had as she sees Binky as competition in every sense of the word. Because of an incident en route and his burgeoning friendship with them, David feels compelled to help them resolve their issues. Specifically in dealing with Eddie’s life, David is forced to reflect on his own and the reason he left his home in Midland City, Iowa. Read More »

Kon Ichikawa – Nobi AKA Fires on the Plain (1959)

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Quote:
Fires on the Plain opens to a harsh and unexpectedly cruel act, as Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi) is struck in the face by his commanding officer for returning to his under-provisioned and demoralized regiment. Suffering from tuberculosis, Tamura had been sent to a field hospital in Leyte in order to avoid taxing their limited supplies. Tamura is sent away again – this time, with a handful of tubers and a hand grenade. If the hospital still refuses to admit him, the officer explains that it is his duty to serve the Imperial Army by committing suicide. As Tamura makes his way towards the field hospital, he is unnerved by the appearance of smoke emanating from isolated, contained fires along the Filipino countryside, and changes his route in order to avoid them. Read More »

Akira Kurosawa – Shichinin no samurai AKA Seven Samurai [+commentary] (1954)

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Quote:
In 16th century Japan, protracted feudal wars have created a prevailing sense of lawlessness. Bandits have organized into formidable armies that scavenge the countryside in search of villages to loot. One morning, a band of thieves arrive at the outskirts of a farming community, but is persuaded to delay their attack until the barley has been harvested. A peasant farmer overhears their plan, and summons the villagers for a town meeting. The farmers seek counsel from the village elder (Kuninori Todo) who advises them to hire “hungry samurai” who would protect their village in exchange for meals. But the task of finding formidable samurais who will accept such a meager compensation proves to be a difficult task. One day, the farmers witness a middle-aged ronin (masterless samurai) named Kambei Shimada (Takashi Shimura) single-handedly rescue an abducted child by relying solely on his cunning intelligence and precise technical skill. Kambei has grown weary of fighting, but the plight of the farmers wins his sympathy, and he agrees to take up their seemingly hopeless cause. Read More »

Alfred Hitchcock – Rear Window (1954)

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Quote:
Alfred Hitchcock spent his entire career experimenting with, and perfecting, the storytelling structure of the thriller. He had a legitimate “prestige” film with his first American production, “Rebecca,” but even that more than qualifies to be considered in the same genre vein as “Vertigo,” “Psycho,” “North By Northwest” or “Strangers on a Train.” This particular attention to genre is likely why Hitchcock did not receive an Oscar until the Honorary one he got at the end of his life, but that snub has always been attributed more to the stuffiness of the Academy than any lack of worthiness on Hitch’s part. Read More »